And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:6-7 KJV
Of all the characters featured in the nativity story, the one I feel is the most misunderstood is the innkeeper.
Not much detail is given in the passage of Luke 2:7 but he has become such a prominent figure in the telling of the story.
Growing up, he was always portrayed to me as a grumpy old man who wouldn’t make room for the mother of Jesus and banished them to a place deserving of animals. And so the moral of this encounter is that we shouldn’t be like the innkeeper - we shouldn’t have no room in our lives for Jesus.
Fair enough. This is a good application.
But as I grew older, I realized that this wasn’t the full picture. There seemed to be more to the innkeeper’s story. The innkeeper didn’t give the mother of Jesus a place to stay in his house, but he did give her something. Were there other innkeepers around? Did they all say “No, and you can’t stay in our stables either!”? If so, shouldn’t we give this innkeeper some credit? I think so!
A lot has been interpreted from this very short account in Luke 2:7 and you can do a deep dive into what actually constitutes an “inn,” was there actually an innkeeper, and what did this all look like anyway?
Feel free to do all that homework on your own.
I’m not here to explore those details today.
What strikes me the most about this passage is the phrase “no room” - and this is what I want to explore. Making room.
I think more often than we care to admit, we don’t make room for people who are different from us. It’s easy to invite people to sit at our table if they share similar interests, temperaments, or opinions.
We only need to survey the last few months - even weeks or days! - to see how true this is. The increasing tensions of the pandemic, racial injustice, and the election have caused fractures in our society to become giant fissures that seem to have no end in sight. A quick scan of the comment section in any social media or online site shows that we don’t have room. We don’t have room for the other.
We don’t have room for someone who voted for a different president. We don’t have room for someone who protested or was too silent. We don’t have room for someone who thinks differently about mask-wearing.
But the table of God is big. There is a seat for everyone. There is room for all our differences on social and racial justice, on marriage and divorce, on baptism and communion, on politics and pandemics. If we push people out or throw away seats because someone doesn’t agree with us, then I think we are making a big mistake. By doing this, we limit God’s grace. We run the risk of conforming God’s sovereignty to our own interpretations, ideas and ideals, instead of trusting the power of His Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts (including our own).
I heard a sermon earlier this year in which Jesus was described as an “other.” I had never considered this. He truly was an other. Not only in terms of His deity being fully present in his humanity in a way that no human being could ever understand - in this way He is the most significant “other” in history. But Jesus was also an “other” also culturally and interpersonally. Did people sneer at Him as the son born into the scandal of an unwed woman claiming she was impregnated by God? And what of His father? Does anything good actually ever come from Nazareth?
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for Jesus to be born today. Would I notice Him? Would He be so different from me, so “other” that I don’t give Him any second glance? Are there things that I hold on to so dearly about myself that I wouldn’t make room for Him if He didn’t agree?
The grand irony is that we’re all the “other.” No matter our differences, no matter how we see ourselves, we all “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Yet He was born into this world for all of us. Not just the people who share the same theological understanding as us, or those on the same political aisle, or those with the same Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, or Hogwarts House. He was born for all of us. Even for those who reject Him.
So if He can do that - if He can enter into this broken world as a baby and leave it in the most horrific way possible - to reconcile all of us to a seat at His Father’s table, shouldn’t we make room too?